SAN FRANCISCO — Two games into the stretch that will define their season, the Giants are taking care of business.
If one tenuous win over one of the league’s bottom feeders didn’t entirely stop the bleeding from a skid that dropped them all the way back to .500, how about a second? And a convincing thumping at that, 9-1, finally giving Logan Webb some run support Saturday night in their 15th win in their past 16 meetings with the last-place Rockies (51-90), who won’t make this three-game set their first series win against an NL West foe this season.
While hardly a crowning achievement, the Giants (72-70) couldn’t ask for a better start to a stretch of 10 games against sub-.500 competition. But their fate is out of their hands, and their latest win didn’t make up any ground on the D-backs (75-68), who beat the Cubs in extra innings to maintain a 2½-game lead on the third and final National League wild card. They pulled even with the Reds (73-71), with the Marlins (73-69) still between them and playoff position.
The Giants jumped out to a 6-0 lead against Rockies starter Chase Anderson, giving Webb more runs to work with than he’s gotten in his past three starts, combined. At an average of 3.03 per game entering Saturday, Webb had received nearly a half-run less of support than the next-closest starter.
Returning from a bout of pink eye, Thairo Estrada opened the scoring in the first with his 11th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left that followed Mike Yastrzemski’s leadoff double, and stole his 20th base of the season after reaching on a strange fielder’s choice in the fourth.
Estrada drove in three of the Giants’ nine runs, while Yastrzemski scored twice and drove in a pair while collecting three hits, two for extra bases.
Yastrzemski was forced out at second base as the Giants scored for the final time in a four-run fourth inning that made it 6-0. Estrada popped what looked to be a can of corn to shallow center field. The ball fell exactly where Nolan Jones was camped out, but it glanced off his glove and fell to the grass. Luis Matos, who had singled and made it to third, scampered home while Yastrzemski was just late hustling into second base.
The Rockies, who entered this series with the majors’ worst ERA (5.64), appear to have provided a cure for the Giants’ long lost offense.
Their 18 runs over the past two games are their most since they scored 22 between June 17-18. With 12 more hits Saturday, they have strung together four straight games in double digits for the first time since June 11-14. In addition to Yastrzemski, Davis and Matos each contributed multiple hits.
Webb, meanwhile, had his sinker in top form, recording all 18 of his outs via ground ball or strikeout. Elehuris Montero’s second-inning single, one of three Rockies hits against him, was their only ball put in play at a launch angle of more than 12 degrees, in other words, the only pitch that was elevated all night.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Logan Webb works against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
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With six shutout innings, Webb recorded his league-leading 21st quality start and added to his darkhorse Cy Young candidacy. While the Cubs’ Justin Steele (the NL’s ERA leader at 2.49), the Padres’ Blake Snell (whose 2.51 ERA ranks second but also leads the majors in walks) and Braves’ Spencer Strider (historic strikeout numbers but a pedestrian 3.83 ERA) are considered the favorites, no pitcher has pulled ahead decisively in the race with three weeks left in the season.
Webb has taken on the largest workload in the majors, with the increasingly rare 200-inning threshold well within his sights after reaching 193 on Saturday. He lowered his ERA to 3.40, eighth in the National League but behind only Arizona’s Zac Gallen among pitchers within 30 innings of him. Those numbers are reflected in his 4.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, which tied with the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler for second behind only Snell.
But, due to a lack of run support, the Giants had too often failed to capitalize on Webb’s gems. They improved to just 14-16 when he takes the mound.